Los Angeles Chargers @ New Orleans Saints
Tuesday, 01:15 BST
Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Channel 5
Outside MVP candidate Kamara the key for New Orleans
After four weeks of the NFL season the New Orleans Saints have had a mixed start but, mainly due to the spectacular start to the season for running back Alvin Kamara, they have hope for the rest of the season. While the MVP award traditionally goes to a quarterback it is Kamara at 50/1 who is the shortest price non-quarterback to win MVP and its not hard to see why. During last week's 35-29 victory over the Detroit Lions, Kamara found the endzone for a league leading seventh time as he continued to be at the centre of the Saints offensive gameplan.
Quarterback Drew Brees is a nailed on to make the Hall of Fame but, at 41, his game has become more about short and mid-range passes and that further plays to Kamara's skillset. Since star wide receiver Michael Thomas was injured in the first week of the season Kamara has led the team in receptions with 25 catches as Brees looks to his multi-talented running back with increasing regularity.
Thomas has recovered from his injury but will miss Monday night's game as part of a "team discipline" decision after being involved in a locker room fight. With the Chargers struggling against the run last week and Thomas missing in the passing game, I'm backing Kamara to continue his exceptional start, and find the endzone while also rushing for Over 68.5 yards.
Saints too strong for Chargers
While Kamara is the obvious main man for New Orleans this year it has fallen on head coach Sean Payton to find ways to use the rest of the team to take the pressure off Kamara and allow him space to work his magic. Fortunately for Payton, his quarterback is one of the brightest football minds in the game and has been a master of making the right move throughout his career.
Over the years Brees has routinely spread the ball around, the living embodiment of the NFL cliche "his favourite receiver is the open receiver" but the emergence of Michael Thomas changed that to an extent. Without Thomas, the Saints QB has reverted to type. Last week Brees had 19 completions to nine different receivers, including a pair of touchdowns to Tre'Quan Smith, as he led the Saints back from a 14 point deficit and will continue to spread the ball around on Monday night.
With Smith and Emmanuel Sanders dovetailing nicely with Kamara's receiving talents it falls to Latavius Murray to help carry the load in the running game. Murray is physical runner who is ideal for short yardage situation and there is an argument that he is good enough to be a starter for multiple teams across the league. Murray, Sanders and Smith will be vital for New Orleans on Monday night, particularly given the struggles the Saints have had on the other side of the ball.
Last year the Saints defence was one of the best in the league, but in the early weeks of the season they have struggled, conceding an average of 30.75 points per game and while their offensive talent should be more than enough for the Chargers it will probably be closer than it really should be. A Saints win by 1-13 points at 7/5 is worth a look.
Rookie Herbert lacks supporting cast
In Week 2 the Los Angeles Chargers were preparing to face the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs when starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor suffered a rib injury in the warmups and then a team doctor accidentally punctured Taylor's lung while attempting to administer a pain-killing injection and the journeyman quarterback was forced to miss the next three games. Taylor's misfortune has been a blessing for rookie Justin Herbert, who has now secured himself the role as the quarterback of the future for LA.
The sixth overall pick in the 2020 Draft, Herbert's debut saw him lose to the Chiefs in overtime before a career best for passing yards in Week 3 still wasn't enough to beat the Carolina Panthers but it was last week that really showed the problems Herbert is facing. The Oregon born QB had his team leading 24-7 towards the end of the first hald in Tampa Bay, despite an injury to running back Austin Ekeler, but with their starting rusher out injured the Chargers failed to hold on to the lead and eventually fell to a Tom Brady led comeback.
In Ekeler's absence his backups, Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley combined for just 16 yards rushing from 15 carries, meaning that Herbert's measly 14 yards was the highest individual total. Without a consistent running game to speak of and with the expectation of the Saints jumping out to an early lead behind the combination of Kamara's skill and Brees' veteran nous look for Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn to lean on the passing game. Herbert's lowest passing total in the NFL is 290 yards so Over 263.5 passing yards on Monday night looks like a safe bet.